Chase Freedom Unlimited® review
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Overview
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has long been a favorite among fans of cash back credit cards, but the card may now hold even greater appeal for rewards-savvy cardholders looking to get started with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Chase revamped the Freedom Unlimited card’s rewards scheme last year to offer bonus cash back on travel purchased through the Ultimate Rewards portal, as well as on dining and drugstore purchases. Meanwhile, the 1.5 percent cash back rate on general purchases and valuable perks like travel cancellation/interruption insurance and DoorDash DashPass make the card worth holding onto for budding travelers and low-maintenance cash back enthusiasts alike.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need excellent credit to qualify or prequalify, and, although the card offers a solid average cash back rate, you’ll get the most value out of your rewards when you pair the Freedom Unlimited with a higher-tier Chase travel credit card.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages?
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3 percent cash back on dining; 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases; 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
- Welcome Offer: $200 cash bonus with this card when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
- Annual Fee: $0
- Purchase Intro APR: 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 15 months
- Balance Transfer Intro APR: None
- Regular APR: 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent (variable)
A solid sign-up bonus
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is currently offering an impressive sign-up bonus of $200 cash back after you spend $500 in your first three months of card ownership. This is $50 higher than the card’s previous offering of a $150 cash back bonus for spending $500 in the first three months and stands as the card’s highest flat cash bonus to date.
If you’ve been eyeing the Freedom Unlimited and waiting for the best time to apply, the current welcome bonus should be a great motivator. Compared to other no-annual-fee cash back cards’ intro bonuses, the Freedom Unlimited’s $200 bonus with a $500 spending requirement is standard at the moment (a 0.4 bonus-to-spending ratio), although other cards may impose a higher spending requirement for a $200 to $250 value.
Generous cash back
With its recent refresh, the Chase Freedom Unlimited stands out as one of the most valuable no-annual-fee cash back cards on the market. In fact, the Freedom Unlimited actually earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back at a 1:1 rate—which makes the Freedom Unlimited uniquely valuable as a beginner’s rewards credit card if you’re looking to travel with a premium Chase card down the road.
How you earn
The Freedom Unlimited earns 5 percent cash back on all travel purchased via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), 3 percent back on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery purchases) and 3 percent back at drugstores. That’s in addition to the 1.5 percent cash back the card already earns on general purchases. You’ll also be able to earn 5 percent cash back at grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in your first year.
This combination of a solid base cash back rate and a generous bonus cash back rate in multiple categories makes the Freedom Unlimited a very valuable no-annual-fee credit card and a great entry point for frequent travelers who want to get started with credit card rewards.
How to redeem
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a ton of choices for how you can redeem your rewards. You can opt for cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit, redeem for travel or gift cards or shop online at Amazon.com. Like many other credit cards, you can also redeem your rewards for charitable contributions (which currently have a 25 percent boost in value).
You can also combine your rewards with a premium Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to enjoy additional flexibility, such as the ability to move your rewards to one of Chase’s transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio.
How much are the rewards worth?
The value of Chase Freedom Unlimited rewards will vary depending on how you choose to redeem them. Here’s a look at what sort of value you can expect on average with each redemption method:
- Cash back (statement credit or deposit): 1 cent
- Travel: 1 cent
- Gift cards: 1 cent
- Apple purchases: 1 cent
- Amazon.com purchases: 0.8 cents
- Charitable contributions: 1.25 cents
If you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card, you can get even more value out of your points: Combine your rewards with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred cards and redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal and you’ll enjoy a value of 1.25 cents per point, a 25 percent increase versus the value you’d get redeeming for cash back. It’s even better with the Sapphire Reserve, as your points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Other Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits
While the Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s perks can’t compete with those you’ll find on a luxury travel card like the Sapphire Reserve, the card still offers a number of useful consumer benefits. Here are a few standouts:
Complimentary DashPass subscription
A great complement to the Freedom Unlimited card’s bonus rewards on dining purchases, DashPass is a subscription service from the popular food delivery company DoorDash that gets you unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on orders over $12. The Freedom Unlimited comes with three months of free DashPass membership, after which—if you don’t cancel beforehand—you’re automatically enrolled in DashPass for 50 percent off the monthly rate (typically $9.99 per month) for the next nine months. Make sure you’re eligible by activating before Dec. 31, 2021.
Purchase protection and extended warranty coverage
If something you bought with the card is damaged or stolen within 120 days of your purchase, the Freedom Unlimited covers the cost up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account. Plus, eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less on items you purchase with the card are extended by a year.
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
Trip cancellation and interruption insurance are prized perks when travel looks uncertain. What’s more, you typically only find this level of coverage with travel cards carrying a hefty annual fee. If your trip is canceled or cut short due to sickness, severe weather or other covered circumstances, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid tickets and non-refundable passenger fares.
Chase Pay Yourself Back
As of last October, Chase extended the Pay Yourself Back tool to the Chase Freedom card series, which can make your rewards a force for good. Pay Yourself Back lets you use points to cover purchases you’ve made within the last 90 days with a 25 to 50 percent value boost.
At this time, the Freedom Unlimited can use Pay Yourself Back to cover charitable donations to 12 select organizations at 1.25 cents-per-point rate (until Dec. 21, 2021), which now includes funding vaccine rides with Lyft. You’ll also be able to use your rewards at a boosted 1.1 cent per point value to cover up to $250 of total dining purchases between July 2 and September 30, 2021.
However, you can cover recent grocery store, dining and home improvement store purchases with a Sapphire Preferred (25 percent boost) or Sapphire Reserve (50 percent boost) card until Sept. 30, 2021. This means that you can use your Freedom Unlimited to collect rewards on categories outside the Sapphire Reserve’s reach and then pool them with the Reserve for an impressive 1.5 cent redemption value toward grocery runs or food deliveries.
Rates and Fees
Luckily, the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t pose many fees. Assuming you pay your balance on time and in full, it costs nothing to carry the card.
- Annual fee: The Freedom Unlimited makes for a great all-purpose rewards card because with no annual fee to factor in, you won’t have to worry about whether the card’s perks or rewards justify its cost. Instead, simply keep the Chase 5/24 rule in mind and decide whether the card is worth the credit ding that comes from a hard pull.
- APR: Freedom Unlimited offers a fairly wide range of potential APRs. Depending on your credit history, you’ll be assigned a variable APR between 14.99 percent and 23.74 percent. While the low end is a bit lower than the current average credit card interest rate, the high end is nearly 40 percent higher than the average APR.
- Intro APR: The Freedom Unlimited doubles as a solid zero-interest card with a respectable 15-month 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers (the ongoing variable APR begins afterward).
- Foreign transaction fee: One of the most glaring negatives of the Freedom Unlimited is its foreign transaction fee. If you use the card abroad, you’ll be charged an additional 3 percent of the purchase amount for each transaction. If you frequently travel overseas, you’ll want to use a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card.
- Balance transfer fee: If you take advantage of the Freedom Unlimited’s introductory APR on balance transfers, you’ll take on an introductory balance transfer of 3 percent or $5, whichever is greater. This is a pretty standard fee, but you should act quickly since waiting to transfer any balances to the Freedom Unlimited after your first 60 days will incur a 5 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).
First-year card value vs. ongoing value
Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t come with as many valuable perks or credits as Chase’s premium cards, its additional bonus categories still provide a considerable value beyond the weight of your first year’s intro offers. Compared to “standard” flat-rate cash back cards that typically earn 1.5 percent on all purchases, such as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Freedom Unlimited can rake in much more. By our estimates, a typical year with the Quicksilver could earn you around $441, while the Freedom Unlimited may collect about $633 on the same budget.
You can stretch your value even further with a Chase Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve. The Reserve card’s 50 percent bonus redemption value can turn your $633 worth of cash back into approximately $950 toward travel through Chase. That’s an excellent value considering there is no annual fee to recoup with the Freedom Unlimited.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Yearly rewards*||+$794.50||+$633.50 (minus first-year grocery 5% rewards)|
|Welcome offers||+$200 (after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening.)||N/A|
|Perks (of monetary value)||+$74.92 (DoorDash DashPass offer)||N/A|
|Total value of intro purchase APR**||
*Based on the following estimates for annual expenditures by category: groceries ($4,600); dining ($3,500); household utilities, fuels and public services ($4,000); household supplies, furnishings and home improvement ($2,800); apparel and services and department stores ($1,800); gas and gas stations ($2,000); transit and ride-shares ($800); entertainment ($3,000); personal care products and services, household operations and other miscellaneous spending ($3,300); travel ($2,000); pharmacies and drugstores ($1,300); online shopping ($1,800).
**Intro and ongoing APR card data based on a $1,000 unexpected expense, average credit card interest rate (at time of writing), minimum ongoing variable APR and the minimum monthly payment to pay off the balance within the card’s intro APR period factored into Bankrate’s credit card payoff calculator for comparison.
How the Chase Freedom Unlimited compares to other cash back cards
A lot of cash back credit cards are on the market today, and most cards in this niche do not charge an annual fee. However, some cards stand out due to various benefits they offer or for their lucrative initial bonuses.
Here are some of the top cash back credit cards you may want to consider:
|Feature||Chase Freedom Unlimited||Citi® Double Cash Card||Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express|
($0 intro annual fee for the first year)
(after you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening)
(statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months)
Up to $200 back
(20 percent back on Amazon.com purchases within the first six months of card membership for up to $200 cash back in the form of statement credits)
Best cards to pair with the Chase Freedom Unlimited
While you can pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with any number of rewards credit cards that offer different perks or rewards categories, it’s wise to pair this card with another premier Chase credit card if you want to travel—particularly the Sapphire Reserve.
You can pool all your points in one Chase Ultimate Rewards account for maximum redemption value and can even pool points with a spouse or partner who lives at the same address, as well as with any Chase business credit card accounts you might have.
Pairing with the Reserve also gives you the option of transferring points to popular Chase airline and hotel partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards.
As a reminder, if you have both the Freedom Unlimited and Reserve, you can enjoy extra value when you redeem points for travel through the Chase portal (with the Reserve offering a 50 percent higher point value when you redeem this way).
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it?
The Freedom Unlimited should be an exceptional deal for anyone who wants to earn flexible rewards without an annual fee. It’s hard to beat the card’s generous welcome bonus and ongoing rewards, particularly given that most cards that offer bonus cash back in specific spending categories offer just 1 percent back on general purchases.
Plus, the benefits are excellent for what you typically find among no-annual-fee cards. The trip cancellation/interruption insurance is a staple among premium travel cards, which gives the Freedom Unlimited card great ongoing value beyond its stellar first-year potential.
You also have myriad options for redeeming your rewards, whether you prefer cash back or travel. If you also have (or would consider getting) the Chase Sapphire Reserve and might want to pool points for future travel, that’s even better, as you’ll enjoy a 50 percent boost in point value when you redeem through Chase’s travel portal.